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Old Blue Records

Old-Time Piedmont Pals

Kirk & Riley CDRiley Baugus and Kirk Sutphin are household names to anyone who loves old-time music. Their prowess on the fiddle, banjo and guitar and Riley’s vocals put them high on everyone’s top ten list. Both have toured extensively – east coast-to west coast, up to Alaska and overseas. Sadly the occasions where just the two of them play together are few and far between, especially since their history goes way back – they first met on a grade school bus. Riley, in fifth grade and already on the bus, was carrying his violin to school for his music class. Kirk, in third grade, and not yet a friend of Riley’s, got on the grade school bus carrying his fiddle for show-and-tell. That started a life-long friendship built around their love of and respect for old-time music.

They have appeared together on many CDs before. Their first, The Old Hollow String Band – Old Time Music from North Carolina, included Wayne, Kirk’s father, on guitar. However, they have never recorded any tracks of just the two of them. This powerful CD corrects that oversight. It includes songs from their youth that they learned directly from icons like Tommy Jarrell, Fiddlin’ John Rector, and Dix Freeman. It includes songs that they learned not just from fellow musicians and friends face-to-face, but also from LPs, homemade tapes and 78s and now CDs. After one listen you will know that the oral tradition that was the heart and soul of country music of the 1920’s and 1930’s is still very much alive.

“You don’t need a full string band to make great music. It can be done with just two instruments and one voice, and this CD [Kirk Sutphin & Riley Baugus Long- Time Piedmont Pals] is proof of that. [Listen to] the tight, almost telepathic sound that comes after over thirty years of making music together, and it is clear why this is a very good CD.”

“You can’t be more long-time friends than growing up in the same town and playing music together from the time you were young.  Riley and Kirk are part of the living aural tradition, the true vine of old-time music. They learned from players who were generations older than themselves and have played the music native to their home, since taking up music. Here they serve notice, as much as they ever would, that this is their music, their tradition. 

“Both men are accomplished banjo players and fiddlers. They ably demonstrate that here. They start out with a couple of spot-on readings of Round Peak favorites, featuring Riley’s banjo and vocals and Kirk’s fiddling. We are treated to Riley’s fine fiddling on “Last of Callahan,” a Kentucky tune first recorded by Wm. Stepp. Then they turn around and take “Riley and Spencer” back toward its African-American roots in a low-down two-guitar tour de force based upon the Rounder Records recording by Fields Ward.

“Evening Star Waltz” steps right along as Kirk nails the high notes with that Round Peak slide and Riley’s bass runs on the guitar (that earned him the name Riley) drive the proceedings along.  As he fiddles this set, Kirk echoes the fiddlers who came before him, but also places his stamp on each tune. His versions of the Round Peak tunes here stand as a benchmark for the tradition. His rivals are few. His banjo playing covers both the clawhammer and fingerstyle approaches that marked the region’s styles overtime.  He is probably the most accomplished of Frank Jenkins’ three-finger-style out there today. Riley’s banjo playing draws from the well with a rich touch, perhaps favoring Fred Cockerham more than others.

“They cast a wide a deep net in their tune selections.  Wade Ward’s “A Married Man’s Blues,” taken from a test pressing that had disappeared for some time, is a welcome piece.  Riley sings the melody, banding notes with his voice and then doing quite the same with his fiddle.  All the while, Kirk’s banjo chugs along holding it all together very nicely.

“There are 23 cuts here, drawing heavily from the Round Peak tradition and repertory, Kirk and Riley are deeply rooted in this home tradition.  Riley has ventured out of it a bit here to bring in music with a subtle twist that puts it in a new light and brings out aspects that would otherwise be missed.  Singing “Birdie,” known more today as the fiddle and not the old song, casts it in a whole light.  There are a lot of folks out there who play old-time in the Round Peak tradition, but these gentlemen were born and bred to it.  The tradition is them and they are it.  The can no more leave it behind than they leave themselves behind.  We are treated here to true old-time music played like few others can.”   


Click on the tunes with red dots before their titles to hear MP3 samples. Click the back button (or close the new tab), on your web browser once you've finished listening.

1 Silly Bill (525K) 2:07 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - clawhammer banjo
2 Suzanna Gal (630K) 3:25 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - old two finger-style banjo,
using just thumb and forefinger
3 Lonesome Road 3:21 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
4 Last of Callahan 2:14 Riley - fiddle; Kirk - old two finger-style banjo, using just thumb and forefinger
5 Riley and Spencer 3:36 Riley – vocal, guitar: Kirk - guitar
6 Evening Star Waltz 2:33 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - guitar
7 Roving Cowboy 2:45 Riley - vocals; Kirk - fiddle
8 Paddy on the Turnpike 2:44 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - guitar
9 Fortune 3:17 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
10 Drunkard's Dream 3:06 Riley - vocal, guitar; Kirk - fiddle
11 Liberty 2:07 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - clawhammer banjo
12 Cripple Creek 2:46 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
13 A Married Man's Blues 2:43 Riley - vocal, fiddle; Kirk - clawhammer banjo
14 Pretty Little Shoes (521K) 2:38 Riley - fiddle; Kirk - clawhammer banjo
15 John Hardy 2:50 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
16 As Time Draws Near 3:19 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
17 Big Eyed Rabbit 2:44 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
18 John Brown's dream 2:07 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
19 Birdie 2:45 Riley - vocal, guitar; Kirk - fiddle
20 West Virginia Farewell 2:04 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - clawhammer banjo
21 Wild Bill Jones 3:58 Riley - vocal, clawhammer banjo; Kirk - fiddle
22 Forked Deer 2:05 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - clawhammer banjo
23 Molly Put The Kettle On 1:57 Kirk - fiddle; Riley - clawhammer banjo
Track live recorded at the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall, of the Surry Arts Council, Mt. Airy, NC, June 4, 2010.


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